New Bournemouth signing Jack Wilshere never envisaged playing in the Sky Bet Championship, but is now eager to add a promotion to his CV.
The former England and Arsenal midfielder signed a deal until the end of the season with the Cherries earlier this week after he departed West Ham by mutual consent in October.
Almost a decade ago Wilshere inspired a Champions League win over Barcelona as a teenage prodigy, but injuries contributed towards a Gunners exit in 2018 and no further international outings since Euro 2016.
When Wilshere left the London Stadium in October with a year left on his deal, he did so with the intention of turning his career around – not calling it quits.
“For both parties we reached the right decision, I wasn’t going to play and I didn’t want to sit there on big wages at a club like West Ham and just rot,” Wilshere said.
“If I felt like I had finished and done everything I wanted to do in the game, I would have called it a day when I left West Ham.
“I’ve been lucky enough to earn good money throughout my career so I didn’t need to come and play football, but my love for the game and being out of it for three months made me realise I want to play for as long as possible. I love this game and it is part of my life.
“Now I’ve come to Bournemouth, it’s a different challenge. I haven’t played in the Championship or tried to be promoted, but I’ve watched it every year since I was a kid and it is obviously exciting.
“Probably if you had asked me 10 years ago if this was something I thought I’d ever be involved in, I would have said no, but now here I am and I am focused and ready to give my all to try and win promotion.”
Boyhood West Ham fan Wilshere made only 19 appearances for the Hammers across two seasons and just three in 2020 following the arrival of David Moyes.
Amid a relegation battle, the style of the 29-year-old did not fit in with the football required to secure top-flight status for another campaign.
It made his next move crucial and after getting to know the Cherries boss Jason Tindall during his previous loan spell on the south coast, he was more than happy to agree a Vitality Stadium return.
Wilshere added: “I spoke to the manager here about where he sees me playing and I obviously knew the style of play he wanted to play so that was a big reason.
“People have asked before about the West Ham move and would I regret it but I wouldn’t because I grew up as an eight-year-old wanting to play for West Ham.
“I was a fan and it was a dream come true to play for the team that I supported as a kid. It doesn’t take a footballing genius to know it didn’t work out and I’m fine with that.
“I’ve got nothing bad to say about West Ham, I enjoyed my time there even though I didn’t play as much as I wanted and I met some good people and people I’ll be friends with for a long time.”
Since the dizzy heights of dazzling Lionel Messi and co at the Emirates 10 years ago, there have been ups and downs for Wilshere.
He won two FA Cups at Arsenal and helped the club record six consecutive top-four finishes while he represented England at two major tournaments.
The lows have been sorely felt though, with a stress fracture to his ankle in 2011 the start of a long and painful journey on the injury front, but the belief in his own ability has never wavered.
“I’ve never ever doubted myself as a player,” Wilshere insisted. “I’ve played in big games and always thought that I could hold my own if not be the better player and I still feel that way.
“I still feel like I’ve got something to give in this game. The next four or five months are going to be in the Championship and I’m just trying to be the best I can individually, which is going to help my team reach our goal.”